I found the first interview with Bob Stein, “Mao, King Kong, and the Future of the Book”, extremely interesting. Today, publishing companies are mostly concerned with transforming printed text to the screen. E-books (largely) fall into this category – that they have simply been transported from their text origins. When Bob Stein began working with HyperCard Stacks, he even thought “it was desperately important that it be just the text on the page.” (Mao…) I believe that this shows that there has been and still is a strong emphasis on the form and distribution of digital texts. I believe a lot of companies are concerned with attracting readers to their specific distribution. They want readers to find and buy their books from them and then access their devices to read it. This is an issue that I believe will always be in motion. But the real question is – is how moving books to digital forms changes the way they are written and made?
In the Colloquy interview, Bob Stein mentions that authors could “function as very knowledgeable moderators of an ongoing discussion.” Books might be written initially or started individually but by the critiques, edits, and suggestions, books can evolve and change. Authors might be able to take those suggestions and craft the work differently. Whether or not this will be good or bad for books, will remain to be seen but this new networking capability should be considered. I personally think this could work for some works but not for others. In the case of novels, I think it might degrade the necessary talent for one to be an author. If anyone can receive help with edits and receive suggestions through a constant network, their skill, creativeness, and aptitude will be enhanced by others. This could result in many people becoming authors, and, really, no one becoming authors.
That dream of “making a living” as an author could fade away. Everyone will have produced a work, or perhaps, collaborated with others. This open-source approach could start to take some of the money out of the system. But Stein was also focused with how e-books were made, specifically how individuals could make them. He wanted people who didn’t know how to program to be able to publish their own e-books. His versions of HyperCard and Voyager tool kits let high school teachers produce e-books. I think this is revolutionizing how e-books are made. While publishing companies might still be needed on a distribution front, their needs to “create” a book could dwindle as well. The current emphasis on e-books’ form and distribution is important but I also believe it is important to realize the impact that these new modes of writing and publishing could have. Standard definitions of what an author is and what a publisher does, could and is drastically changing.